Preparing for active shooter threats is an increasingly common challenge. Although these events are a low-probability risk at any given site, the magnitude of improperly handling an event of this nature can have devastating effects on your business (i.e. negative PR, public perception, lost sales), your company culture, and possibly even your career.

The frequency of active shooter events per year has increased over the last decade. In a U.S. Department of Homeland Security study released in 2014, 160 active shooter incidents on U.S. soil were documented between 2000 and 2013, resulting in a total of 1,043 casualties.

Active Shooter Locations

Statistically speaking, active shooter locations have skewed most towards businesses and malls, but events have been widespread as can be seen in the breakdown released by the same DHS study previously mentioned – Businesses & Malls (46 percent), Schools (24 percent), Government (10 percent), Houses of Worship (4 percent), Health Care Facilities (3 percent) and Other (13 percent).

Did you know that 83 percent of active shooter events occurred indoors since 2000? (Police Executive Research Forum, 2014 Study) Responding to these types of incidents indoors introduces several complexities, and having the right security technologies in those facilities can offer huge advantages to security and law enforcement teams.

The First 60 Seconds

Security teams can only initiate response to an active shooter event that they know exists. Many traditional ways of reporting emergencies to security may not work in active shooter scenarios because people need to run away, hide and take cover or immediately fight to survive.

Once a threat of this kind is known, at least two of the concurrent processes will involve neutralizing the shooter(s) and ensuring that people who become wounded during the event get immediate medical attention.

Increasingly, one or more technologies are often responsible for security teams becoming aware of active shooter situations. In the majority of recent cases, mobile phones have been used to report active shooters. With the added complexity of managing gunmen within indoor settings, let’s explore two newer indoor technologies and how they can help in the first 60 seconds:

Indoor Positioning Systems (IPS)– IPS systems use Beacons and WiFi together with mobile devices to report floor and room locations of people inside buildings. Pros: Safety apps using IPS can provide IPS-tagged alerts, IPS-tagged communication and photos. IPS-tagged data can be shared with security when a gun is seen, before any shots are fired – and in between shots fired. Cons: Requires an action to be taken by one or more individuals.

Gunshot Sensors– These sensors detect gunshots and report the locations of gunshots indoors or outdoors. Pros: Security teams will be alerted very rapidly about each gunshot fired. Cons: Cost. Sensors limit feedback to specific points in time when shots are fired.

Improving Response with Communication

Most security professionals have a responsibility to notify different stakeholder groups about an active shooter. This responsibility is also an opportunity to engage people, communicate and make better incident management decisions.

Have you thought about how certain individuals in the building may be able to help you? In 80 percent of cases, law enforcement does not arrive within five minutes of a shooter being reported (according to the U.S. Department of Justice). Thus, the only people that have real-time information about the shooter(s), are people in the building – in addition to what security may or may not be able to capture on video cameras.

The question becomes: How do you effectively reach these people and get access to critical information? Two-way notification engines are a great example – those that accept message replies from recipients – and even better if it’s integrated with an IPS system, so that security receives IPS-tagged information.

Responding Law Enforcement

Late last year, President Barack Obama unveiled a plan to spend $75 million to equip more police officers with wearable body cameras. Although that announcement was intended to help resolve disputes between police and witnesses, streaming video from wearable cameras could be used by security leaders in command centers or mobile tactical units to make better decisions based on real-time video from guards or officers close to the action.

Closing Questions

Next time you sit down to analyze your security technology strategy, ask yourself these three questions: How quickly can you detect the location of a severe threat in your facilities? Can you leverage information from people in your organization at a moment’s notice? Are you able to quickly ascertain who needs help and where to find them?